Moulin Rouge!: Think Cabaret meets Rent meets Rock of Ages
Moulin Rouge! the Broadway musical, is an immersive experience, a spectacle, a happening.
The spectacle begins with the explosion of monochromatic color that awaits you when you enter the theatre, which is inhabited by characters from the show roaming the stage, looking out at the audience, setting the scene. And the scene is over-the-top, with blazing red everywhere, string lights, a massive elephant, sequins, a windmill (of course) and plenty of attitude.
The spectacular scene crafted by the Moulin Rouge! creative team is totally un-apologetic and in your face.
To be totally honest, a musical that weaves popular songs from various eras into the show is just not my cup of tea. It feels like a bit of a cop out. And this show is paying big money for rights, since approximately 70 (!) songs are used, often in medley form; from “Your Song” to “Nature Boy” to a diamond song medley (including “Diamonds are Forever” and “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend”). Naturally “Lady Marmalade” starts the show, in that previously referred to in-your-face fashion.
The best song of the bunch is “Come What May”, an original song written for the 2001 Baz Luhrmann Moulin Rouge movie, which was actually previously penned for the1996 Baz Luhrmann “William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet” film.
This story is about true love, tainted by money, and in the case of the folks who are part of the Moulin Rouge cast of characters, survival. A count wants to own and dominate the beautiful Satine, the featured performer at the Moulin Rouge. He promises to finance the show and the club, if he can have her. Satine wants the money to keep the theatre company going, as well as continue performing, but has fallen in love with an American, who has traveled to Paris to be a composer to live the bohemian life. This is a common dilemma often depicted in theatre and opera, for sure, always with a tragic ending.
What is a bit off-putting about this show is that although there is often a serious tone, when the first notes of many of the songs began and audience members recognized the music and lyrics, a laugh would ripple through the house..seemingly because of the familiarity of a song that you hear on the radio. That was odd to me, especially during poignant moments in the piece.
Having said all of this, once I let my disappointment in hearing pop music woven into the show go, I enjoyed the musical. You simply have to go with the flow and enjoy the Moulin Rouge! ride.
The performances are spectacular. I wouldn’t necessarily think of Danny Burstein for the role of the impresario, Harold Zidler, but he does a fabulous job.
Beautiful Aaron Tveit plays sweet Christian, the innocent from America who traveled to the ragged part of Paris, and powerhouse Karen Olivo truly rocks the house as the strong-willed and stunning Satine. The Moulin Rouge! version of the pop fluff song “Firework” becomes so intensely deep and important, thanks to the orchestral arrangement and the way it is sung by Olivo.
Directed by Alex Timbers and choreographed by Sonya Tayeh, with incredible scenery by Derek McLane and gorgeous costumes by Catherine Zuber, it is easy to be seduced into the web of the Moulin Rouge! and kind of love it.
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